Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Year Without Peas and Peaches - July 3, 2014

This Summer has been nothing compared to the year before but the heat came upon us much more quickly.  This meant no peas and lots of beautiful bean plants that still have no beans.  My fellow community gardeners are unfortunately experiencing the same thing.  Meanwhile, we went to pick blueberries at Reed Family Orchard last weekend and they informed us there will be no peaches this year due to last winter's freezing temps.  What a bummer. 

So far, I haven't seen peas or peaches being brought in from elsewhere, but some folks must be growing hot house beans or have another trick because we have still been able to get yellow and green beans at the farmer's market and local stores.  This year I was tired of the same old Southern beans and potatoes so we branched out a bit.  My first attempt was to toss beans, apricot slices and shallots in olive oil, salt and pepper.  I then added sliced watermelon rind pickle and tossed on a cookie sheet.  I put it all in the oven at 350 degrees until I saw a bit of browning and the beans weren't squeaky and tossed with sliced almonds when I took it out.  It was a great combination.

My second bean experiment was French.  It is basically a French Dijon dressing on beans and can be eaten warm or cold.  Here it is:

French Green Bean Salad

2 T. chopped shallot
2 T. white wine vinegar
1 minced garlic clove
1 lb. green beans (trimmed)
1 T. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 c. olive oil
2 T. chopped capers
1 T. chopped parsley

Combine shallot, vinegar and garlic and allow to sit.  Boil water and toss in beans to cook.  Add remaining ingredients to vinegar mixture.  When beans are cooked through, drain and add dressing while warm.  Serve hot or at room temp.

My final and I think favorite bean recipe this month was the simplest.  It has a great lemon taste and is easy to prepare.  Best of all, you don't need an hour to cook these beans before you eat.  I hope you like it:

Spicy Beans with Lemon

 3/4 lb. green beans, trimmed
1 sliced shallot
1 sliced garlic clove
1/2 tsp. dried red chili flakes
1/2 lemon
olive oil

Add 1/2 T. of oil to frying pan and heat on med-high.  Toss in beans, shallots, garlic and chili and cook one minute.  Cover and lower heat and cook until soft about 3-5 minutes.  Remove lid and cook until liquid is gone.  Season with salt and squeeze lemon juice on top.  Serve warm.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Drinking Like You’re in Bermuda – May 18, 2014

I am terrible at a cocktail bar.   I simply don’t know enough to read a drink description or list of ingredients and know if I will be a fan.  But, this year on vacation, I decided to give it a try.  John and I sought out hip bars in both Chicago and Florence, Alabama.  My first drink was a really cool tropical pineapple and lime rum drink with an ingredient I had never heard of – falarnum.  John and I “Googled” falarnum and learned it was a tropical infused rum from Bermuda.  Later we headed to Florence and our new bar had a Dark and Stormy which also included falarnum.  Turns out the Dark and Stormy has been taking New York City by “storm.”  Who knew.  I didn’t care.  I just knew I really liked it and since it also included falarnum, I needed to learn more about this magic ingredient.

When we returned home I did a bit more research about falarnum.  I knew I had hit the jackpot when I found Paul Clark’s site and recipe.  The recipe is actually called falarnum #9 because he tried eight others prior and decided this one was the best.  I made my own in a mason jar and it is really delicious with the flavors of almond, lime, ginger and cloves.  The only thing I haven’t figured out is what to do with all these great ingredients you infuse the rum with other than compost after infusion.  Maybe one of you has an idea!

Falarnum #9
2 T. blanched, slivered almonds
40 whole cloves, crushed
3/4 c. white rum
Finely grated zest of 9 medium limes, with no pith
1 (3-inch piece) fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 c. plus 2 T. sugar
3/4 c. plus 1 T. warm water
3 T. fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp. almond extract

Toast the almonds and cloves in a small, dry frying pan over medium heat until the almonds are golden and the cloves are aromatic, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat to cool slightly, about 3 minutes.  Place cloves, almonds, rum, lime zest, and ginger in a 2-cup nonreactive container with a tight fitting lid. Cover, shake, and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.

Combine sugar and water in a 1-quart container with a tight fitting lid. Cover and shake until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture looks clear, about 5 minutes. (By not heating the sugar-water mixture, the simple syrup will be less dense and crisper than a cooked syrup.) You should have 1 3/4 cups; set aside.

After 24 hours, strain the rum mixture through a cheesecloth or several layers of paper towels set in a fine mesh strainer over a small bowl. Press the solids against the strainer to extract all the liquid. Discard the solids.  Add the strained liquid, lime juice, and almond extract to the reserved simple syrup. Shake. Keep refrigerated for up to 1 month.

Dark and Stormy
1/2 oz. falernum
1/2 oz. lime juice
2 oz. dark rum
4 oz. ginger beer

Mix and enjoy.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Bacon, It's Not Just For Breakfast Any More - May 4, 2014

Yesterday was the Kentucky Derby and we had a great group of friends over to celebrate.  We even had our local bakery, Plehns, make horse head cookies with the numbers of all 20 horses so each guest could select a cookie and make a bet to go to the pool.  Congratulations to Mark and Kay who picked California Chrome and won the pot.

Thanks to our friend Gerry, we had mint julips and Jeff and Elizabeth brought all the makings and created Oaks lilies.  John made his own tradition of jambalaya in a giant cast iron dutch oven and we had more traditional items like ham biscuits and Camy's derby pie as well as my mother-in-laws melt in your mouth peach cobbler.  It really felt like Spring had sprung.

Along with the other treats, I decided to make a fabulous and not too difficult treat that was shared in Edward Lee's (another Louisville treasure) great new cookbook, Smoke and Pickles.  This treat has very few ingredients and is a great use for the pack of thick cut bacon you bought by accident or a big bag of cashews that you want to spice up a bit for a party.  I'm not a bourbon drinker, but it is supposed to be a great compliment according to Edward Lee and it has just the right amount of salty and sweet.

Bacon and Curried Cashews

6 thick cut slices applewood-smoked bacon, diced (you need a sharp knife)
(you can also buy a big slab of bacon and cut about 6-8 ounces into chunks)
2 T. sugar
1 c. cashews
2 tsp. mild curry powder (I used Penzeys and I haven't tried with spicier blends)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
pinch of salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat skillet and cook diced bacon on stove top 5-6 minutes until most of the fat is rendered and the bacon starts to crisp.  Drain off all but a T. of grease.  Add the sugar and cook until bacon starts to look shiny.  Add remaining ingredients and toss.  Spread everything on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper and bake about 12 minutes.  This is the most important step.  You want the nuts and bacon to cook until crisp and well browned but not burnt. Too little and they will get soggy, too much and they do burn.  Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

One Year Ago - Lemon Ramp Rissoto

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spicing Up Your BBQ Japanese Style – April 18, 2014

I think spring has finally sprung.  I am looking out my window and see cherry blossoms, Virginia bluebells, tulips and raspberries.  Thank heavens!!!!  It has been a long winter.  Now, I am looking forward to cooking on the grill (actually I’m looking forward to John cooking on the grill) and hanging out with friends in the back yard.  Luckily, while we were on vacation in Chicago we went to a great Japanese restaurant in Andersenville that served potato croquettes in a FABULOUS Japanese bbq dipping sauce.  What a fabulous idea.  We came home and reviewed recipes and created our own.  I’ll warn you now - this unlikely to be a recipe to help you use up things in your fridge unless you are Japanese.  BUT, once it is made, it is a great way to use chicken, pork or fish on the grill and a great dipping sauce for anything.  We have tried chicken fingers, sloppy Joe’s, tater tots and onion rings.  Please reply with your great ideas and I highly recommend trying this recipe.  You won’t be sorry.

 Japanese BBQ Sauce
1 T. vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces tomato paste
½ c. sake
½ c. water
3/8 c. sugar
¼ c. white vinegar
¼ c. miso paste
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. Worchestershire
2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Heat oil in heavy pan on medium.  Stir in garlic until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.  Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to simmer.  Cook until thickened about 30 minutes.  Keep in jar in fridge.

One year ago – Fried eggs in pepper rings
Two years ago - Asparagus pickles and broccoli stem pickles

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Baked Potato Tomorrow – April 6, 2014

With the advent of the microwave, many of us gave up on the much superior baked potato with its beautiful crisp skin.  My issue is remembering to preheat and cook the potatoes an hour and a half before dinner which leads to a decision to go to the microwave in order to have dinner ready in a reasonable amount of time.  But, I am trying to remember and am always surprised how good those baked beauties are with a little sour cream when we have them.  Sometimes you overestimate your potato need and have a few left over.  I usually just take one to work and microwave then, but the leftovers are great chopped up to use in recipes.  The easiest is to chop and make hash browns or hash for breakfast the following day.  But, here are a couple other winners we enjoy at home:

Baked Potato Frittata
6 slices bacon or equal amount Pancetta
1 T. olive oil
1 ½ c. chopped peppers (mostly red and yellow bell but as many hot peppers in here as you like)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ c. cubed baked potatoes (skins on or off as you like)
12 beaten eggs
2-4 ounces sharp cheese

Saute bacon in oil until crisp.  Remove, drain and break up.  Add peppers and sauté until soft.  You could get inventive here.  Add some tomatoes, capers, garlic or other favorite veggies if you like and sauté as well.  (I added spinach.)  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add potatoes and warm through 2-3 minutes.  Drain oil and then add eggs and bacon bits.  As the eggs begin to thicken (about 5 minutes), add cheese and mix in.  Then place in oven under broiler until browned on top and cooked through.

Corn Chowder from the Beaumont Inn
¼ lb. bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 c. corn
2 c. chicken stock
½ c. cream
¼ tsp. pepper
½ c. chopped baked potatoes
2 T. flour
Salt to taste

Brown bacon.  Remove and drain on paper towel.  Add onion to bacon grease and cook until soft.  Add flour and cook 3 minutes.  Slowly add stock, then cream, corn, potatoes and seasonings.  Simmer on low 45 minutes.

One Year Ago - Harris and Hutcheson Potato Salad
Two Years Ago - Peach Sangria and Moonshine Jelly

Sunday, March 16, 2014

You Won’t Get Raspberries from These Recipes – March 16, 2014

I hear Spring is coming although you’d never know it from watching the ice bits fall from the sky outside.  I guess it’s a good time to stay inside and cook.  I also am trying to do a bit of Spring cleaning by using up things we put away for the Winter and still haven’t used.  One of these was a bag of frozen raspberries from our backyard and community garden.  I took them out and let them defrost and drain over a wire strainer.  I thought I had about 1 ½ cups of berries, but it was probably twice that.  Unfortunately, I found that the white raspberries which I much prefer due to their mild taste do not freeze well as all.  They were totally mushy and some so icky, I just picked out and tossed.  I guess that will give me the encouragement to just eat them off the vine this year which is how they taste best!  But for now, I picked out 1 ½ cups of the best preserved berries, saved the rest of the strained berries for a smoothie and poured the strained liquid (about a cup) in a small pot with a half cup of sugar on medium-low.

Raspberry Muffins

2 ½ c. all purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 c. sour cream
1 tsp. milk
1 c. sugar
8 T. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ c. berries

Heat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center.  Prepare muffin pans by oiling or inserting cups in about 18 sections.  Whisk first five dry ingredients.  Mix remaining ingredients except butter and berries.  Add butter once it is cooled enough to insure you don’t cook your eggs and mix just until all ingredients are incorporated (lumps are fine).  Then carefully fold in berries.  Drop muffin mix in cups and sprinkle additional sugar on top of each muffin.  Cook 17-20 minutes.

The raspberry muffins are fabulous warm with butter or with lemon curd.

To go with them, I made a raspberry smoothie from the remaining berries. 

Raspberry Smoothie

I c. berries
1 c. milk
½ c. Greek yogurt
4 packs Splenda

Place everything in blender and blend.  Mine was a bit thick but you could add more milk if you prefer or add a half banana if you felt it was too thin or you prefer a thinner yogurt.  The thicker version can just be eaten with a spoon and would be great with toasted sweetened nuts or granola.

Also, about the time everything else had finished, I had a small amount of raspberry sauce that had been thickening on the stove from the raspberry liquid.  You could eat it on yogurt or ice cream or I mixed it with a bit of vodka and lime juice and simple syrup for a yummy purple afternoon treat.

One Year Ago - Egg White Omelet
Two Years Ago - Lemon Curd and Angel Food Cake

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Oh! Okra! - March 2, 2014

This is my birthday week and Fat Tuesday is this week as well, so what better way to celebrate than with okra.  O.K., I know okra isn't everyone's favorite vegetable, but it is mine.  I love that it is warm and buttery and can be made with nothing but a pot of boiling water and a bit a salt.  2013 was a banner year for okra in Kentucky because it was so warm for so long.  I was able to freeze bags and bags of okra pods right from the garden last summer and yesterday I took out the last one from the freezer.

And, don't forget I said it is almost Fat Tuesday which if you have okra means GUMBO.  Gumbo is one of those great recipes that is basically an okra stew that can be made with whatever local meat you have to add.  So, I did use some local chicken thighs, but I love gumbo with big juicy shrimp, so I added those as well.  You can easily double this recipe, but it made a big pot which was plenty for the three of us to each over three days.

Shrimp and Chicken Gumbo

5 c. water
1 1/2 lb. of large raw shrimp (peeled and shells reserved)
1 lb. andouille sausage
1 lb. okra cut in rounds (I used frozen but it's even better with fresh because they don't turn to mush)
4 chicken thighs (or legs)
1/4 c. plus 2 T. vegetable oil
1/2 c. plus 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
5 scallions, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 c. vegetable or chicken broth
4 bay leaves
1 T. Creole seasoning
2 T. file powder

Drop shrimp shells in water in heavy pan and simmer until water takes on flavor of shells (about 30 minutes).  Cut sausage in thin rounds and saute in another pan over medium.  Remove sausage once it starts to brown to a bowl lined with paper towel and use another paper towel and spoon to remove the grease but keep any sausage bits stuck to the bottom.  Add a T. oil and heat to medium.

Add the okra and cook on medium until all the slime is removed and the okra starts to brown and get dry.  Remove the okra to another bowl and add another T. (or two) of oil.  Dip the chicken pieces in flour and place in pan and turn heat to medium-high.  Fry chicken pieces on all sides until the flour browns and remove to another bowl.

Now add the 1/4 c. oil to your pan and heat over medium.  Once hot, slowly add flour to create a thin roux.  Keep cooking while stirring until the roux turns a dark caramel color, 10-15 minutes. Now, add onions and cook until wilted.  Then add garlic, parsley, scallions, bell pepper and celery. Strain the shells from your stock and add it and your broth.  Also add sausage, chicken and bay leaves.  Simmer for an hour.  If you are using fresh okra, you can add now as well.  If frozen, I would add after cooking 30 minutes.

Add the shrimp and Creole seasoning and cook until shrimp are cooked through (no more than 15 minutes).  Add file and allow to sit 15 minutes.  Skim fat, taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve over rice.

One Year Ago - Walnut Cake and Canadian Biscuits
Two Years Ago - Homemade Limoncello

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Pretty Darn Good Vegan Cookie - February 23, 2014

Thanks to John Johnson of the Wine Market, we had a fabulous Saturday evening with a dozen great friends.  John donated a wine tasting to a Clifton Center auction which we won last Summer. I made a four course French meal that John paired with six FABULOUS wines.  I don't know which wine I liked the most but the most surprising pairing was an Italian sparkling red jewel, Rosa Regale, that was paired with our dessert of chocolate mousse and olive oil cookies. The cookies were a second thought because our vegan friend Curtis came and we wanted to make sure he could enjoy all four courses.  I figured I'd be lucky to get even Curtis to eat the cookies, but they actually turned out to be a big hit.

I actually made the cookies in two batches and decided after the first batch that I thought they'd be even better with a sprinkling of sugar before baking.  So, that is how I include the recipe below, but you can make it without the sugar if you prefer.  I think these cookies would be even better paired with coffee or ice cream.

Olive Oil Cookies
2 1/2 c. flour
1 c. (+ more for sprinkling) sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. olive oil
2 eggs (or you can use any egg substitute like I did)

Combine dry ingredients (except sprinkling sugar).  Add in oil and egg substitute.  Mix and roll into Tbsp. size balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Using a spoon, press each ball to flatten and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.  Cool and enjoy.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Easy Biscuits – February 7, 2014

I had dinner with my friend Virginia the other night and she told me about this crazy idea – biscuits made with three ingredients.  And, even more interesting, one of these ingredients is mayonnaise.  Well, it just so happened we had three jars of mayo in the fridge from various events.  And, although we aren’t big biscuit eaters, I thought the idea of using up some mayo and having a special Sunday breakfast sounded great.

These biscuits do require that you have self rising flour (or you have to supplement your all-purpose flour making it more than three ingredients).  You can also do as I did and replace the milk with buttermilk.  The dough is very sticky and more a drop biscuit than something you can roll out, but they were very easy and quite delicious.  They also kept in the fridge and warmed well in the toaster through the week with butter and jam.

Three Ingredient Biscuits

2 c. self-rising flour
6 T. mayo
1 c. milk

Mix all ingredients just until blended.  Heat an iron skillet in oven at 400 degrees.  Remove and drop biscuits on skillet (makes about seven or eight).  Cook approximately 20 minutes until lightly browned.

Well, it just so happens that after I made these for breakfast, we listened to Natalie Dupree on The Splendid Table share her recipe for TWO INGEDIENT biscuits.  These don’t use up any mayo, but help if you have extra whipping cream.  They also require you to fold them out, but they were really delicious!!!!

Two Ingredient Biscuits

2 ¼ c. self-rising flour
1 ¼ c. heavy cream
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and spray iron skillet with oil.  Whisk 2 c. flour in bowl and make well in center.  Slowly add 1 c. cream mixing until just together.  Use flour to flour surface and drop dough on top.  Flour dough and fold in half.  Flour again and fold again.  Add more flour or cream as needed.  Press dough out ½ - ¾ inch thick and cut biscuits.  Place in skillet touching each other.  Bake 10-14 minutes on top rack, rotating if needed.

I don’t know how it is where you are this weekend, but we have more cold and snow – the perfect weather to stay at home with biscuits, ham or jam.  Enjoy and have a great weekend

One year ago – Smoked Salmon and Smoked Salmon Pasta

Friday, January 31, 2014

Cavala Ki Khira - January 31, 2014

Namaste!  Last week I had the opportunity to cook an Indian dinner for almost 100 people who attended a concert by Kiran Ahluwalia (check her out at at my husband's venue, the Clifton Center.  I made creamy eggplant, cauliflower with potatoes, lentils (dal), bread (naan) and yogurt (raita).  It was a big hit but I made WAY too much rice because I was afraid it would run out.

Soooo....rice pudding (cavala ki khira)!  It was really easy.  So easy in fact that I made it at 11:00 that evening when I returned from the event. It makes a great dessert, but I ate it for breakfast the following week after warming in the microwave and sprinkling a little cinnamon sugar on top.

Rice Pudding

2 c. milk
1 c. left over rice
2 eggs (beaten)
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
1/3 c. raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat milk and rice, stirring frequently on simmer.  In separate bowl, mix eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Add to the milk and stir for a few seconds. Add raisins and cinnamon if using and put pan in oven for 20 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Essence of Mushrooms - January 25, 2014

On October 12, 2013 I blogged about preserving beautiful Shiitake mushrooms we grew in the community garden.  We preserved them in jars in olive oil and sat on the shelf.  I decided it was time to take advantage of them a couple weeks ago when it was time for pizza night.  We have a fabulous pasta place in town where we buy all our pasta fresh as well as pizza dough.  I also had a jar of pizza sauce and some banana peppers canned in the summer and my husband thinks pizza must have pepperoni so we bought that too.  The pizza with was delicious, but I think the best part of the meal was the salad.  We used the oil from the mushroom jar with a few mushrooms and mixed with rice wine vinegar and a bit of sugar to make the dressing.  It had all the flavor of the mushrooms, peppers and herb from the canning.

I didn't want to waste the rest of the mushrooms, so the next day I made a pot of lentils and added the remaining mushrooms.  It was earthy and rich and hearty and made great lunches for the week. Here is what I did:

Lentil Stew with Mushrooms and Spinach

1 chopped onion
4 diced carrots
1 T. olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp. oregano
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. basil
14.5 ounces crushed or chopped tomatoes
2 c. dry lentils (I used the French green ones, but brown or Indian also work)
1/2 c. chopped preserved mushrooms
8 c. water (using the water from the tomato cans or broth if you like)
1 small bag frozen sinach
2 T. lemon juice (or vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil on medium and saute onions and carrots.  Stir in garlic and herbs.  Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in lentils, water, tomatoes and mushrooms.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour.  Add spinach and cook until warmed.  When ready to serve, stir in lemon and season to taste.

One Year Ago - Bloody Mary Bar

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Strata - The Best Way to Wake Up with Day Old Bread - January 18, 2014

My husband's family has a strata tradition on Christmas and New Years mornings.  I had never heard of strata which is a breakfast casserole using bread usually soaked in egg and milk.  The best two things about strata in my opinion are that you actually have to make them the night before so there is no fancy cooking in the morning and that they are a great way to use up both day old bread and eggs if you have too much of either.  Once you see these recipes, you can also riff on them and find ways to use up other things like various cheeses, milk or cream and meats or veggies you think would be good.  I can imagine roasted peppers and corn as a great additions for example.

I'll start with the Harris family traditional strata.  It is sausage cheese and while I am not a fan of fake sausage, you can replace the sausage with it or turkey sausage.  This year, we also added a crab strata.  I actually thought it was a bit too rich, so I have adapted the recipe here to replace some of the half and half with milk.  You can go the other way of you prefer.  Because it is in a smaller deeper casserole, it had little of the bread sticking up to get cripsy, so you might want to add a little less of the egg/milk mixture also to allow some more bread to stick up.  I hope you enjoy both.  If you're having a brunch or opening presents, it is a great breakfast to just pop in the oven and it's ready when you're finished getting dressed.  We serve it with a big fruit salad.

Sausage Cheese Strata
1 lb. browned hot breakfast sausage
8 slices day old white bread, cut in cubes
3/4 c. grated Monterrey Jack cheese
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Dijon
pinch Cayenne
1/2 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
3 T. melted butter

Grease 9 x 13 casserole dish.  Put in half the bread followed by half the sausage and cheese. Add another layer of each in the same order.  Whisk all remaining ingredients except butter and pour over casserole.  Drizzle with butter.  Cover and chill overnight.  

In the morning, remove from fridge and let sit 45 minutes while preheating oven to 350 degrees. Bake in water bath for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes.

Crab Strata
8-10 slices of day old French Bread (cut in 1/2 inch thick cubes)

3 T.  butter, softened
4 shallots, minced
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 to 1 1/2 c. lump crab meat
6 oz Gruyere cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 large eggs
1 3/4 cups half-and-half (or one c. milk and ¾ c. half and half)

Heat 2 T. butter in nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Saute shallots 3 minutes.  Add spinach and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.  Set aside.  Add wine to skillet, increase heat to medium high and simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup.  Set aside.

Butter 8 inch square baking dish with remaining T. butter.  Arrange half the buttered bread slices in single layer in dish.  Sprinkle half of crab and then spinach mixture, then 1/2 cup grated cheese evenly over bread slices. Arrange remaining bread slices in single layer over cheese; sprinkle remaining spinach mixture and remaining crab and another 1/2 cup cheese evenly over bread. Whisk eggs in medium bowl until combined; whisk in reduced wine, milk and half and half, 1 tsp. salt, and pepper to taste.  Pour egg mixture over bread layers, cover  and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, take strata out of fridge and let stand at least 20 minutes while preheating oven to 325 degrees.  Uncover strata and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake 50-55 minutes.  Cool and serve.

One Year Ago - Green Soup and Potato Soup

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Stock In Action - January 11, 2014

So last week, my biggest cooking success was a fridge and freezer full of delicious chicken broth made in my crockpot.  I decided to build on what worked and make risotto. Risotto is one of those things that my husband and I never make at home, but when we do, we both look at each other and say, "Why don't we make this more often?"  This was definitely one of those cases.  We usually make seafood or saffron risotto, but I decided to check what we had and see if we could use the risotto to make use of more than just the chicken broth.  A search of the fridge and freezer resulted in about a cup of sweet corn frozen back in the summer, a cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese leftover from Christmas strata making and an open jar or roasted red peppers.  I then found three recipes from my box of family recipes, Cooking Light and the side of the risotto box and created the following:
Sweet corn, roasted pepper risotto
5 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. white wine
2 tsp. olive oil
1 c. Arborio rice
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. chopped green onions
¾ c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
½ tsp. tobasco sauce
2 c. corn, cut from cob
¾ c. chopped roasted red peppers
Salt and pepper to taste
Place broth in pan and warm on stovetop (do not boil).  Keep warm through cooking.  Heat oil in saucepan over med-high.  Add rice, cumin, coriander and garlic and sauté 1 minute. Stir in wine and cook while stirring until absorbed.  Then, start adding broth ½ c. at a time stirring each time until absorbed and adding more.  Continue until all broth used.  Stir in the onions, cheese, hot sauce, corn and peppers while a bit soupy and cook 3 minutes until heated and correct consistency.  Salt and pepper to taste. 

While I was at it, I decided to make great use of one more thing in our pantry.  This Summer, I made butternut squash augre-doux (see previous blog).  It was put away in lovely pint jars.  I dumped a jar into a pan and heated.  Then, I added a tablespoon of butter and a bit of salt and simmered until the liquid in the jar thickened around squash. Before serving, I added a bit a nutmeg.  It had this fabulous savory sweet Winter taste.  It would make a great Thanksgiving side.

One Year Ago - Chicken Peanut Stew

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Back to Making Stock - January 4, 2014

I have taken a few weeks off from the blog and cooking as well.  I made great use of past cooking through Christmas baskets filled with cakes, candy and jars put away during the Summer and Fall. Also, we shared pickles on cheese plates and salsa with chips and banana peppers on pizza with friends and family between traditional meals.  Mostly, we took turns cooking big warm meals with our group of friends who get together annually; this year in Tennessee.

On our return, I found very little in the fridge, but remembered a whole chicken in the freezer.  I did an InterNet search and found many people raving about cooking a whole chicken in the crockpot.  I admit I must have done something wrong because mine was tough and overcooked instead of falling off the bone moist as all the reviewers I read described.  BUT, I did have another success in this effort I thought worth sharing.

After removing the chicken from the crockpot and cutting the meat off the bones for our meal, I placed the bones back in the pot along with the onions, apples and lemons I had used for seasoning. Just to add more flavor, I also added the carcass of the turkey breast we had frozen after a fabulous Christmas Eve lunch and then, I added:

2 crushed cloves garlic
an onion cut in half
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. Mural of Flavor seasoning from Penzy's (choose the seasoning of your choice)
1 bayleaf
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

I then filled the crockpot with water and turned it on low.  I left it on during dinner and a movie and poured it into 1/2 c. cupcake pans and plastic containers before going to bed.  This morning, I popped those in the cupcake pans out with the help of hot water and dropped them in a freezer bag for later.  The rest will make great corn risotto tomorrow night!

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